A COUNCILLOR today told how a struggling mental health charity saved him from the brink of suicide when profound hearing problems plunged him into the depths of despair.
Hartlepool borough councillor John Marshall has hailed the services provided by Hartlepool Mind as a “lifeline” after staff helped him in his darkest hour.
But the independent councillor is now calling on Hartlepool Council to help the local branch of Mind – which is having a funding crisis and has waiting lists of up to four months, after admitting fears that appointment delays could cost lives.
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The service saw more than 2,500 people last year and has seen a 10 to 15 per cent increase in clients over the past few years.
But at the same time, it has also had its funding cut by 40 per cent and has lost 10 full-time staff over the past two years.
A major source of funding was from the Working Neighbourhood Fund, worth £128,000, which was allocated by Hartlepool Council.
Coun Marshall said: “Sometimes suicide seems the only possible way out.
“I would say people who work for companies like Mind do a spectacular job of bringing people back from the edge.
“I believe Mind saves lives every single day.”
Coun Marshall suffers from extreme tinnitus, as well as deafness and is prone to ear infections, an illness he has had for around six years.
He said the three conditions combined, with problems getting worse as he gets older, made life unbearable.
The St Hilda ward representative said the pressure caused him anxiety and stress, which had led to depression.
He described his ordeal as “like being in a dark cupboard with the door closed and there’s no escape”.
He sought help from counsellors at Mind, who gave him “peace of mind and a way to move forward in life”.
His counselling taught him to think of more positive things and find a quiet corner when his problems become too much to bear.
He urged fellow borough councillors to see how the service is needed more than ever, especially with growing pressures on people, including job shortages and losses and wages not meeting inflated prices.
Coun Marshall said by freeing up funding for services like Hartlepool Mind, the council could prevent a “false economy” in that by helping sufferers of depression in their early stages. They could offset a “massive” NHS bill further down the line.
He claimed funding from the council’s reserves could bolster Hartlepool Mind’s services, ensuring help was readily available for thousands of people suffering from depression or at risk of suicide.
“The council should be understanding of the importance of having these services very well-funded to save us money and to save lives in the long-term.
“For someone in a stressful situation like myself or someone going into depression, which can last many years, four months is already too late.
“I can honestly say they have given me my life back . If they do that for me and even one or two others, it’s worth every penny.”
A council spokesman said: “The Working Neighbourhoods Fund grant which Hartlepool Mind was receiving was part of a three-year Government-funded programme which ended last March.
“It is not feasible to suggest that the council should provide funding from its reserves, particularly at a time when Hartlepool council has lost £18.6m, a 25 per cent reduction, of its Government grants over the last two years – equivalent to a cut per resident of £200 and more than twice the national average of £97 – and councillors face extremely difficult decisions to balance council budgets.”
● HARTLEPOOL Mind can be contacted on (01429) 269303.